...from Hidden Feelings
The flooded river had subsided a great deal, but the water raced violently along. Julie took about twenty-five small steps out onto the hanging bridge. Katie looked back up stream and yelled, "Watch out!" A tree! A tree is floating down the river at you! Get off the bridge!
Lori shouted, "Julie! Come back!" However, Julie stood, there, frozen. "Julie! ..Ju-lie! screamed Lori. Julie turned and took two steps back when the tree roots hit the bridge closest to the other side. The rampaging current caused the tree roots to push against the bridge with tremendous force. When the bridge lurched terribly, Julie's feet slid off the slats. She was now hanging onto the rope handrails. Only Lori knew about Julie's previous fear of the water and wanted to go out on the bridge to help her.
Suddenly the bridge ripped in half, dumping Julie into the turbulent water. Lori raced down river as Julie was hanging onto the rope for dear life. Meanwhile, the tree careened around, slowly at first, and then faster, as it turned broadside to the current. Its branches came at Julie with ever-increasing speed.
"Watch out!" screamed Lori. Julie didn't see the danger and a branch banged her on the side of her head. She went completely under the water and was swept away by the tree.
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By Donna Kelli
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2009 Donna Kelli
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJulie Conners walked down the hall at Grove City high school with her best friend, Sarah. Oblivious to all the guys who usually stared at them, they talked about going shopping after school. Sarah said, "I'll be at your house by 3:30."
"Okay, Mom and I will be ready," said Julie.
They reached a cross corridor and Sarah spotted Lori Hunter walking fast. As she passed in front of them, Sara said, "I'll be right back, Julie," and she ran after Lori, calling out, "Lori, wait!"
Lori stopped and turned around.
"Can I talk to you about chemistry class, please? I'd like to take it this summer."
"Okay, but walk with me," said Lori. "I have to be in the gym in a couple of minutes."
Julie watched as Sarah started rushing along with Lori and they were quickly out of sight. She just left me standing here, thought Julie. I'm not going to wait here like an idiot. In a huff, she flipped up the back of her long blonde hair, then turned and went upstairs to her last class of the day.
Later, she walked home and said, "Hi, Mom. Sarah should be here in a few minutes." However, time passed and the clock showed 3:45. Julie dialed Sarah's number and said, "Are you coming over?"
"No ... sorry, I can't go shopping with you. Lori's coming over and she'll be here any minute. I'll call youlater, okay? Bye."
Julie heard the phone go dead and thought, my best friend just dumped me for that ... that jock. She said, "Come on, Mom, Sarah isn't going." The entire time she was shopping for new shorts and blouses, Julie was in a grumpy mood.
After dinner, she called and asked for Sarah. However, Mrs. Jernigan answered and said, "Oh, hi Julie. Could she call you back later? She's busy with Lori right now."
"I guess so," said Julie. "Bye." She hung up the phone and felt depressed and actually angry with her friend. She wondered, what's happening with her and Lori to cause her to forget about me ... her best friend?
Julie knew that the Jernigans were going on vacation in the morning and Sarah wasn't even planning to attend the last two days of school. They had already signed each other's yearbook, but hadn't said 'good-bye' yet.
Meanwhile, Lori had charts and diagrams spread out on Sarah's bed, and she explained as much about chemistry as she could. She looked at the clock and said, "Omigosh, it's ten o'clock. You can keep all this stuff for the summer, if you like, Sarah, but I need to leave. I have things to do at home."
"Yeah, me, too. We're leaving on vacation in the morning."
"Right, I heard."
"You were a great help, Lori. Thanks, and I'll see you in a month or so."
"You're welcome, Sarah. Have fun. Bye."
After Lori left, Sarah's mom got her involved with last minute packing, and since it was so late, Sarah decided not to call Julie until morning.
In the morning, Sarah forgot to call.
Julie called Sarah's house, but there was no answer. Feeling sad, Julie got in her dad's car for the short ride to school. Just ahead of them, she saw the Jernigan's car making a left turn. She wanted to wave and yell "Goodbye" to Sarah, but she didn't get her window down in time. Mr. Jernigan quickly turned the corner and Mr. Conners caught the red light.
Julie watched their car pulling away and saw Lori Hunter walking to school on the other side of the intersection. With her window half down, Julie heard Sarah's far away voice yell, "Thanks for last night, Lori!"
"Darn!" said Julie.
"What's the matter?" asked her dad.
"Oh, just ... I didn't get to tell Sarah 'goodbye', and I don't have the phone number where she's going."
"Sorry, honey. Maybe she'll call you."
"Oh ... that's right," said Julie, feeling a little better. Then Sarah's words popped into her head. "Thanks for last night, Lori!" What in the world? Why am I jealous of Lori Hunter spending time with my best friend?
* * *
"Wake up, Lori!" Those words rang in Lori's sleepy mind like a terrible recording. "Wake up!" It was her stepmother's voice, harsh and demanding, like always. With a start, she sat up in bed and looked at the clock. It showed 6:25 a.m. Oh jeez, she thought. I'd hoped to get to school earlier today!
"I'm up!" she said, dashing into the bathroom to start getting ready, wondering why her clock didn't go off at six o'clock.
Later, in the kitchen, she really didn't hear much of Maude's complaining because she tuned it out while she grabbed a quick glass of milk and some toast. She picked up her purse and her yearbook. "Bye! Gotta go!" she said, and left, hearing, "I never saw such a mess as that girl!"
Was she a mess? She looked down and saw neat shiny-black loafers, a navy blue full skirt with a white blouse. Not so messy, she decided, as she briskly walked the four short blocks to school.
As she went in the main entrance, she heard, "Lori! Hurry up!"
She turned to see Hattie, one of her best friends, barely five feet tall, with red hair and freckles. She was not at all into sports like Lori, but she liked to laugh and was always up on the latest gossip.
"Come on! Everybody's in the auditorium already!"
They picked up the pace, really hurrying now. As they turned the corner of the last hall, Lori bumped headfirst into the very muscular chest of 6'2" tall Mike Warner, the school's star-wrestler.
"Sorry!" he said, quickly reaching out and grabbing her arms to keep her from possibly falling backward. "Are you okay, Lori?" the junior asked, looking down at her, and trying to see her elusive, hazel-green eyes.
"Yes, I guess so," she said, somewhat embarrassed and barely glancing up at his face.
"I was running back to my locker to get my yearbook. Will ... uh ... you sign it for me, later?" he asked, grinning sheepishly. Unwillingly, he released his grip on her arms.
"Yeah ... okay." she said, finally meeting his gaze briefly. Then she continued with Hattie, unaware that Mike was watching her walk away.
Mike hadn't gotten to look at her eyes long enough. He never did, and wished they'd have a class together next year so he could sit near her. He and his friends often talked about her, deciding that she was shy and didn't even realize that she was gorgeous. She was tall and slender, and had deep dimples that showed unexpectedly, even if she wasn't smiling. She had short, shiny black hair that fell in soft, loose curls. Several of his friends had asked her out but she had politely refused everyone. Usually she'd said that she had her own game or practice to attend and he figured it was probably true. He knew she was on several different teams at the park in addition to many school teams. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and continued to his locker.
"Boy! He's cute! Don't you think?" asked Hattie.
"I don't know. He's okay, I guess."
"Just okay? He's tall, blond, and very good-looking! And, he's exceptionally muscular!"
"Yes, he is all of that," Lori agreed.
"So, what kind of guy do you like?" pressed Hattie. "You're 5'8" and still growing, so he'll have to be tall, right?"
"I ... uh ..."
Just then, Julie Conners, the new cheerleader in the school this year, passed in front of them. She barely glanced at Lori and then went through the open auditorium door, followed by three boys with their yearbooks and pens.
Talk about blonde and very good-looking, thought Lori. Then she agonized silently, closing her eyes tight for a moment, wondering, where in the world that thought came from. Then, clenching her jaw, she said, "I ... uh ... I don't know what kind of guy I like!"
"Well, don't get mad," said Hattie. "I was just asking."
Lori realized she must have sounded grouchy, and said, "Sorry ...I just hate to be late."
"Don't worry, we'll have time to sign at least a few yearbooks before the assembly starts."
They found several of their friends in the center of the spacious auditorium, and started passing yearbooks back and forth. After a while, Lori was signing, "Dear Judy," to a girl on their softball team, "Best of luck, always. Love ..."
She glanced up and saw Julie sitting a few seats away and found herself thinking, Dear Julie, Wish you were ... were ... Wish you were ... What? She suddenly felt weird, as if somehow she had become split in half. She stared at the floor and thought I don't even know her. Maybe I should check out a book on Psychiatry ... or on split personalities, or something.
Lori decided that maybe she just liked the way Julie looked. So much so, that she was envious, and wished that she looked just like her. Yeah, she thought, feeling relieved. Maybe that was it. Julie is very pretty. She has shoulder length, light blonde hair, and blue eyes. If I had her looks, I could ... I could ... what? ... have any guy I wanted? What guy? Well, there's George and Brad ... the best-looking football players. But, they're so ... so ...
She heard, "Lori! Could you please hurry up with my book?"
"Uh ... oh ... sorry," she mumbled to Judy, and signed "Love, Julie." Oh no! What did I write? Her mind raced, searching. She quickly signed a write-over ... 'Love, Jolly Lori.' Jeez, that looks so-o stupid, she thought, and suddenly felt the need for air, outside air!
"Excuse me!" she said, and practically ran up the aisle and outside into the hall. "Whew! I'm nutty today," she said to herself, continuing toward the patio. "I hope nobody saw that!"
"Lori! Wait!" Hattie was scurrying after her, so Lori stopped.
She remembered hearing 'Lori, wait! Lori, wake up!' Tomorrow will change this existence for me, she thought happily. I'm going to Camp Foxmore ... for four weeks! Recently, her dad had surprised her with her fondest wish ... to go to summer camp! He had seen that due to Maude's unexplainable envy of Lori, they grated on each other. So, he had saved up the money.
"What's the rush?" panted Hattie.
Lori chuckled warmly at the sight of her, all falling apart. Her purse was half-open and Hattie was trying to put herself back together.
"Here, hold my yearbook for me. I dropped my lipstick in my purse, and it's still open. Oh, what a mess! Where are you going anyway?" Stopping and putting one hand on her hip, she demanded, "Are you laughing at me?"
"I'm sorta laughing at myself because today seems strange. Come on ... let's go outside for a few minutes."
"All right, but there are more people I want to sign my yearbook."
"Yeah, me, too," said Lori. "We'll go back in a few minutes, okay?"
They sat on a bench in the patio while Hattie re-packed her purse. Lori silently reviewed her recent experience but found no answers to explain her weird behavior.
They returned to the auditorium just in time for the special 'Goodbye' message from the principal. Graduation would take place this afternoon at five o'clock. Most of her friends were seniors and she would miss them a lot.
Although the awards assembly had been held over a week ago, Mr. Anderson mentioned all the superlative winners again. After special words to each of the seniors in the class of 1985, he began with Julie, who had been voted the Prettiest of the Junior Class. He cautioned her to be careful this summer, and to take it easy on all the boys. Hoots, hollers, and whistles of admiration attested to her popularity.
When he got to Lori, who was the Outstanding Female Athlete of the Junior Class, he said, "I know the boys would love to have a girl as pretty as you are on their teams, Lori-"
"Yeah!" shouted Brad, the back-up quarterback, amid more hoots, hollers and wolf whistles. "Real pretty!"
"... especially," continued the principal, "because you perform so easily and, so well."
Lori wasn't used to many people calling her pretty and most compliments embarrassed her. So, she looked down, to avoid the admiring, or maybe even a few judgmental looks from the students seated all around her.
"Yea, Lori!" she heard throughout the auditorium. She just kept her head down, feeling the blush creep up her neck in spite of the cool air conditioning.
"Enjoy the summer and come back to us, safe and sound," said the principal. "We need your talents next year. As you know, today is a half-day, so no lunch will be served. You have the rest of the morning to take care of any unfinished business in the office or the library, and to visit with each other. The staff will be stationed at various points in the school in case you need anything. See you seniors at the ceremony later. Good luck to all of you!"
Lori got through the rest of the school day, with only a few tearful goodbyes. She decided to read her yearbook's newest comments and signatures later, at home. The girls at the park had already signed it and she'd enjoyed what they had written. Some were cute and others were touching. She hadn't asked Julie to sign her book. Oh well, maybe next year. Hattie wanted to stay and talk to some boys, so Lori gave her a hug and said, "I'll call you as soon as I get back from camp."
"Write me! Okay?"
"Silly ... it's not even for the full camp session. It's only for the first four weeks, but I'll have lots to tell you then!" she assured her.
"Okay. Have fun!" said Hattie.
"You bet!" said Lori, waving 'bye,' and hoping she would be able to do just that! She felt her spirits lift and she sort of floated home, promising herself that she'd try to be extra kind to her stepmother, yet avoid her as much as possible for the rest of the day. Maude had no hobbies and no friends. She resented the close relationship Lori had with her dad and didn't know how to cope with feeling left out. So, she hung close to Lori whenever she was indoors, following her from room to room, dreaming up chores for her to do, and asking aggravating questions. Mainly, she tried to make her feel guilty about always playing sports, while she had to be home, supposedly doing all the housework.
Later that evening, as she was packing a few last items, Lori's dad came to her bedroom door.
"May I come in?"
She heard his deep, resonant voice, and smiled. "Hi, Dad." She ran to hug him, and thought to herself ... If ever I find a real boyfriend, I hope he'll have a nice, deep voice like that.
"Just about packed?" he asked.
"Yes," she said. "I can hardly wait!"
"Sorry I can't take you to the bus tomorrow. I have an early morning meeting at work. But, I'll miss you," he said. "Bunches!"
"I'll be missing you, too, Dad," she said, looking into his hazel-green eyes.
"You'll be careful, won't you?"
"Yes, I will. And I'll send you at least one letter."
"More than one! Send lots! And try to call, okay?"
"I promise, especially to let you know when I get there."
"Dad ... I'm not a little girl anymore ..."
"Yeah, I know," he said softly. "But somehow you'll always be my little 'Pixie'." With that, he hugged her again, kissed her goodnight, and left quietly.
She heard, "Jon-a-than!" It was her stepmother's harsh voice, and she hoped that camp counselors weren't as nasty sounding at morning wake-up call.
* * *
At the Conners' house, Julie finished packing for her summer trip. She kept hoping Sarah would call. The phone never rang, and she had a hard time getting excited about tomorrow. She'd hoped to share her summer experiences with Sarah, and now they weren't even communicating at all.
She fell asleep trying to send a mental message to Sarah to call from wherever she was.
Chapter TwoThe next morning, Lori sat quietly as Maude drove her to the bus station. As usual, she tried to tune her out. When she got out of the car, she managed a smile in the direction of her stepmother's frowning face-one she could easily forget. However, the parting words stung, as Maude grumbled, "We get no vacation at all. But, you! You get four weeks of fun and games!" Lori just sighed, and closed the door.
Excerpted from Hidden Feelings by Donna Kelli Copyright © 2009 by Donna Kelli. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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